Windows 7 editions
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Windows 7, a major release of the Microsoft Windows operating system, was available in six different editions: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. Only Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate were widely available at retailers. The other editions focus on other markets, such as the software development world or enterprise use. All editions support 32-bit IA-32 CPUs and all editions except Starter support 64-bit x64 CPUs. 64-bit installation media is not included in Home-Basic edition packages, but can be obtained separately from Microsoft.
According to Microsoft, the features for all editions of Windows 7 are stored on the machine, regardless of which edition is in use. Users who wish to upgrade to an edition of Windows 7 with more features can then use Windows Anytime Upgrade to purchase the upgrade and to unlock the features of those editions. Microsoft announced Windows 7 pricing information for some editions on June 25, 2009, and Windows Anytime Upgrade and Family Pack pricing on July 31, 2009.
Since October 31, 2013, Windows 7 is no longer available in retail (except for the Professional edition preinstalled):
- Windows 7 Starter
- Windows 7 Starter is the edition of Windows 7 that contains the fewest features. It is only available in a 32-bit version and does not include the Windows Aero theme. The desktop wallpaper and visual styles (Windows 7 Basic) are not user-changeable. Microsoft originally intended to restrict users of this edition to running three simultaneous applications but this limitation was dropped.
- This edition was available pre-installed on computers, especially netbooks or Windows Tablets, through system integrators or computer manufacturers using OEM licenses.
- Windows 7 Home Basic
- Windows 7 Home Basic was available in "emerging markets", in 141 different countries. Some Windows Aero options are excluded along with several new features. Home Basic, along with other editions sold in emerging markets, include geographical activation restriction, which requires users to activate Windows within a certain region or country.
- Windows 7 Home Premium
- This edition contains features aimed at the home market segment, such as Windows Media Center, Windows Aero and multi-touch support. It was available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
- Windows 7 Professional
- This edition is targeted towards enthusiasts, small-business users and schools. It includes all the features of Windows 7 Home Premium, and adds the ability to participate in a Windows Server domain. Additional features include support for up to 192 GB of random-access memory (increased from 16 GB), operating as a Remote Desktop server, location aware printing, backup to a network location, Encrypting File System, Presentation Mode, Software Restriction Policies (but not the extra management features of AppLocker) and Windows XP Mode. It, too, was available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
- Windows 7 Enterprise
- This edition targeted the enterprise segment of the market and was sold through volume licensing to companies which have a Software Assurance contract with Microsoft. Additional features include support for Multilingual User Interface (MUI) packages, BitLocker Drive Encryption, and UNIX application support. Not available through retail or OEM channels, this edition is distributed through Microsoft Software Assurance (SA). As a result it includes several SA-only benefits, including a license allowing the operating of diskless nodes (diskless PCs) and activation via VLK.
- Windows 7 Ultimate
- Windows 7 Ultimate contains the same features as Windows 7 Enterprise, but unlike the Enterprise edition, it was available to home users on an individual license basis. Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional users are able to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate for a fee using Windows Anytime Upgrade if they wish to do so. Unlike Windows Vista Ultimate, the Windows 7 Ultimate edition does not include the Windows Ultimate Extras feature or any exclusive features as Microsoft had stated.
Mainstream support for all editions (new features and bug fixes) ended as of January 2015, but extended Support (security updates) will continue until January 2020.
The main editions also can take the form of one of the following special editions:
- N and KN editions
- The features in the N and KN Editions are the same as their equivalent full versions, but do not include Windows Media Player or other Windows Media-related technologies, such as Windows Media Center and Windows DVD Maker due to limitations set by the European Union and South Korea, respectively. The cost of the N and KN Editions are the same as the full versions, as the Media Feature Pack for Windows 7 N or Windows 7 KN can be downloaded without charge from Microsoft.
- VL builds
- VL builds work with VLKs (volume license keys). Volume license keys can be used to activate multiple installations of the software without any mechanism (such as a product activation mechanism) checking the total number of installations. The license for the software will place restrictions on the use of the key. Typically, the license will limit the key to a fixed number of installations which must only be within the licensee's organization and also place the licensee under an obligation to keep a record of the number of installations, keep the key confidential and possibly even require that the licensee organization makes itself available for a software licensing audit to verify that its use of the key is within the terms of the license.
In-place upgrade from Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 to Windows 7 with is supported if the processor architecture and the language are the same and their editions match (see below). In-place upgrade is not supported for earlier versions of Windows; moving to Windows 7 on these machines requires a clean installation, i.e. removal of the old operating system, installing Windows 7 and reinstalling all previously installed programs. Windows Easy Transfer can assist in this process. Microsoft made upgrade SKUs of Windows 7 for selected editions of Windows XP and Windows Vista. The difference between these SKUs and full SKUs of Windows 7 is their lower price and proof of license ownership of a qualifying previous version of Windows. Same restrictions on in-place upgrading applies to these SKUs as well. In addition, Windows 7 is available as a Family Pack upgrade edition in certain markets, to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium only. It gives licenses to upgrade three machines from Vista or Windows XP to the Windows 7 Home Premium edition. These are not full versions, so each machine to be upgraded must have one of these qualifying previous versions of Windows for them to work. In the United States, this offer expired in early December 2009. In October 2010, to commemorate the anniversary of Windows 7, Microsoft once again made Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack available for a limited time, while supplies lasted.
There are two possible ways to upgrade to Windows 7 from an earlier version of Windows:
- An in-place install (labelled "Upgrade" in the installer), where settings and programs are preserved from an older version of Windows. This option is only sometimes available, depending on the editions of Windows being used, and is not available at all unless upgrading from Windows Vista.
- A clean install (labelled "Custom" in the installer), where all settings including but not limited to user accounts, applications, user settings, music, photos, and programs are erased entirely and the current operating system is erased and replaced with Windows 7. This option is always available and is required for all versions of Windows XP. 
The table below lists which upgrade paths allow for an in-place install. Note that in-place upgrades can only be performed when the previous version of Windows is of the same architecture. If upgrading from a 32-bit installation to a 64-bit installation or downgrading from 64-bit installation to 32-bit installation, a clean install is mandatory regardless of the editions being used.
|Version and its
specific edition of
|Edition of Windows 7 to upgrade to|
|Vista Home Basic||In-place||In-place||Clean||Clean||In-place|
|Vista Home Premium||Clean||In-place||Clean||Clean||In-place|
Anytime Upgrade editions
Windows 7 also supports in-place upgrades from a lower edition of Windows 7 to a higher one using the Windows Anytime Upgrade tool. There are currently three retail options available (though it is currently unclear whether they can be used with previous installations of the N versions). Currently, there are no plans for family pack versions of the Anytime Upgrade editions. It is possible to use the Product Key from a Standard upgrade edition to accomplish an in-place upgrade (e.g. Home Premium to Ultimate).
- Starter to Home Premium
- Starter to Professional1
- Starter to Ultimate1
- Home Premium to Professional
- Home Premium to Ultimate
- Professional to Ultimate1
1Available in retail, and at the Microsoft Store
- Windows Thin PC
- On February 9, 2011, Microsoft announced Windows Thin PC, a branded derivative of Windows Embedded Standard 7 with Service Pack 1, designed as a lightweight version of Windows 7 for installation on low performance PCs as an alternative to using a dedicated thin client device. It succeeded Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, which was based on Windows XP Embedded. Windows Thin PC was released on June 6, 2011. Windows Thin PC is supported until October 12, 2021.
- Embedded versions
- Windows 7 is also currently available as a form of Windows Embedded to developers, named as Windows 7 Embedded Standard (previously known as Windows Embedded 2011, the newest being Windows Embedded Standard 7 with Service Pack 1). Windows Embedded Standard 7 is supported until October 13, 2020.
|Features||Starter||Home Basic||Home Premium||Professional||Enterprise||Ultimate|
|Licensing scheme||OEM licensing||Retail and OEM
|Retail and OEM
|Retail, OEM and
|Volume licensing||Retail and OEM
|Maximum physical memory (RAM) (32-Bit)||2 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB|
|Maximum physical memory (RAM) (64-Bit)||N/A||8 GB||16 GB||192 GB||192 GB||192 GB|
|Maximum physical CPUs supported[a]||1||1||1||2||2||2|
|Built-in AVCHD support||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Fast user switching||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Desktop Window Manager||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Mobility Center||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Printing via the Internet||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Parental Controls||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|64-bit edition available?||No||Yes, but not in retail SKUs||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Internet connection sharing||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Built-in DVD (MPEG-2 and Dolby Digital) decoder||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Media Center||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Media Player remote media experience[b]||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Premium games included||No||No||Yes||Yes[c]||Yes[c]||Yes|
|HomeGroup support||Join only||Join only||Create or join||Create or join||Create or join||Create or join|
|Back up to network with Backup and Restore Center||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Act as host for Remote Desktop Services||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Encrypting File System||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Offline files and folder redirection||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Server domain joining||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows XP Mode[d]||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Software restriction policies||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Remote administration tools||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS)[e]||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|AppLocker||No||No||No||Create policies, but cannot enforce||Create and enforce policies||Create and enforce policies|
|Aero glass remoting||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Media Player multimedia redirection||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Audio recording over Remote Desktop Connection||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Multi-display Remote Desktop Connection||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Enterprise search scopes:130||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|BitLocker Drive Encryption||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|BranchCache Distributed Cache||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Subsystem for Unix-based Applications||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Supports Multilingual User Interface packages||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) enhancements:130||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) licensed||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Switching between any of the 37 available languages||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Features||Starter||Home Basic||Home Premium||Professional||Enterprise||Ultimate|
- Not the same as logical processor limits: all editions are limited to 32 logical processors for IA-32 and 256 for x64
- Feature of Windows Media Player which enables the use and control of media libraries on other computers
- Disabled by default.
- Windows Virtual PC including a complete copy of Windows XP with Service Pack 3 using Remote Desktop Protocol to display individual applications integrated with the host OS (Windows 7). Windows XP Mode is available as a free download from Microsoft.
- formerly Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM)
- Any edition of Windows 7 can be installed onto a VHD volume; these installations even appear in the boot menu. However, only Enterprise or Ultimate editions start. Other editions return an error message.
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